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This page is an attempt to facilitiate discussions about Voting and Voting Systems.

Current discussions related to Voting Systems:

The following text was removed from its original location in VotingSystemCollaboration in an attempt to open a bit more space for discourse.

I don't understand why you have equivocated elections and voting. They are separate concepts, and may each be done without the other. Are you after an electoral system or a voting system? Finally, there is a lot here about contracts and authorization, that isn't always necessarily the case. If a group we "volunteer" (i.e. elect) Sam to get the beer, he's under no contract to get good beer. Also, we didn't have to vote Sam into that position, even informally. We could just confer and appoint. -- SunirShah


I'm absolutely delighted that you decided to comment. I've been hoping we might eventually catch enough of your attention to gain the benefit of your perspectives.

With respect to your post...

I submit that conferring to appoint Sam to get the beer, should be viewed as effectively being a trivial example of a Vote, on the basis that:

Moving on to some of the possible views of the relationships between Voting and Elections, I believe it is acceptable to see Voting as simply one decision-making methodology. (There are a great many others, but Helmut expressed an interest in "Voting Systems" as opposed to the other alternatives, and I agreed to participate assuming that its quite enough (if not more than enough) to start with.) In any event, I do not view Voting and Elections as separate concepts, so much as I see Voting to be a process generally used in a democracy, to select (elect) a Representative and/or Leader. (Just now, I can't think of an Election process that does not use Voting, so if someone can provide even a hint, I'd be appreciative.)

Finally, your point that Sam is under no contract to get the beer, is exactly correct in my view. This becomes, of course, the reason that a Constitution or a Charter for any non-trivial group that may not always be able to achieve consensus, is essential. Then, such a Contract can be defined and can be made enforceable, assuming it has been freely entered into by a competent party, in a jurisdiction with proper laws that can be enforced. Please note that I am not assuming that 'can be' inevitably means 'will be' in spite of the fact that I do lament the increasingly litigious nature of Western societies.

-- HansWobbe

Democracies don't require elections. A small hunter/gatherer tribe is democratic without the need for elections. Elections don't require voting. For instance, a nominee could be brought forth and tested viva voce against the crowd to see if there is any dissent. That dissent can then be examined rationally to see if it is meritous. If the argument falls, the dissent is withdrawn. The appointment of U.S. cabinent roles and Supreme Court justices follows this method, more or less.

You should not be so hasty to move from one scope to another. My precise point is that the scope of the problem determines the complexity of the solution. Getting beer does not require an electoral authority, but that doesn't make it any less of a group decision problem. And as any student of democratic systems knows, voting systems vary considerably from one state to the next. The test isn't whether or not the citizenry votes, but how empowered they are.

Voting is only a method where power is represented in a countable--and therefore analyzable and rationalizable--fashion. An honest voting system will map each votes representational power as closely to the underlying power represented as possible. The simplest example are shareholder votes when all shareholders own Class A shares. Then you vote by the level of ownership you have over a company. Since the financial system is just another representation standing in for real world problems, shareholder votes can be constructed to be this simple. Political voting systems don't have the benefit of being so direct since they deal with real world problems. In an Athenian democracy, the presumption is that the majority of male, free householders could band together to harm or kill the minority, so in place they have a voting system to make these decisions more efficient (i.e. without the sword).

Voting systems don't have to be this simple. Most voting systems try to skew the power of each vote in one direction or another for various reasons. For one, the value of brute force in modern times is not very high. Having a huge number of citizens band together does not really matter compared to the real power in a given state. So, some capitalist countries like Italy and the United States prefer more plutocratic systems that allow billionaires to have more political power. However, for countries with vast underpopulated interiors between major population centres such as the United States and Canada, the electoral systems skew representational power to equalize power over the geographic area as well (through their respective Senates).

The tension in complex political systems is to constantly change the voting system to favour one side or the other. Gerrymandering, campaign financing, candidacy requirements, etc. all seek to change the relative power of some votes compared to another in order to better guarantee some predetermined outcome.

Solving the problem with an "honest" vote, a concept that is meaningless in practice, does not still get to the heart of the problem. The problem is making good decisions. Voting itself presupposes the debate has ended and people are no longer listening. It is fundamentally an act of conflict to vote. So, I've claimed that VotingIsEvil. I used to prefer to move things forward by building knowledge and making the right decisions, but that dream itself hinges on there being a maximal tension of power intrinsic in the structure of the voting society, which is libertarianism, and it hinges on the CommunityExile of people who don't play by those rules. The question I'm lost between is simply what is more evil, really? -- SunirShah

Sunir: What you leave out in your analysis is the cost of making the decisions in the opposing models. "moving things forward by building knowledge and making the right decisions" of course should lead to a better decision than voting but this decision can take too much time and too much effort to be taken. -- ZbigniewLukasiak

This is true, but there have been developments in reducing the cost of empirical and constraint-based decision making. So, just because voting is expedient, that doesn't mean even in resource-starved situations it remains ideal. In fact, the less resources spent on forming a collective decision, the more political the decision becomes, so expedient decisions can be self-destructive. It can be better to simply not decide if you can't decide well. -- SunirShah

It is hard to test the theories here as we don't make many decisions here. The only one I see is the refactoring decision - and I believe is is not managed effectively. When I think about it more I want to add that it is not possible to think about taking a decision without a conflict, you need to have many conflicting ways of acting and choose one - this is taking decision. What you proposes is mostly discussing untill there is no conflict. I don't believe this is realistic. And I think it is at the core of the problems with wikis - as the act of adding new content always seems to be a nonconflicting action - but without refactoring and deleting content the pages grow and grow and grow and in the end are impossible to comprehend. Wikis let you to postpone indefinitely the decision solving the conflict between the size of the page and the requirement to have on the page all the information about a particular subject. I am thinking about making a new page where we could make more decisions and test the process. I have the idea to create a page with an artificially set limit on the size - so that every editing would require deleting something else. -- ZbigniewLukasiak

I think you're conflating conflicting options with conflicting people. It's possible to have conflicting ways of action and choose one without conflict between the people making the choice. -- ChrisPurcell

You are right - I was conflating the two things, I hope Sunir did not take this as offence, this was just loud thinking. But I would like to continue the discussion. In voting I see still one more element that Sunir did not counterweight - this is the formality, with voting everyone knows when the decision is taken, what was the result and how to influence it. While in Sunirs way you never know if everyone has already spoken or perhaps they are still working on their position. -- ZbigniewLukasiak

That is why we designate a PeerReview period — a minimum period of silence that must elapse before one can assume no more opinions remain to be voiced. (A ConsensusGroup allows this time to be reduced by a positive vote, but it's important to note that a unanimous consensus is still required, and hence conflict between people must be avoided by discussion.) -- ChrisPurcell

Refactoring should not be political. The art of refactoring is simply to stabilize the discussion so far, particularly by summarizing findings of fact and common ground as well as identifying goals, objectives, positions, and viewpoints. Refactoring a page should not change what it is saying, only improve its ability to say it. Thus, the act of refactoring is non-positional and non-political, and therefore is non-confrontational.

Consequently, fighting over refactoring is the wrong attitude. The right attitude is to teach people the art of refactoring. When people start refactoring, they often make mistakes. That's good. That's when learning begins, so let them. Show them how to improve their refactoring skills for next time. Sometimes a point is lost or a position confused, but that isn't tragic, and it can easily be recovered with PeerReview.

The key is having a positive, helpful, respectful attitude. If everyone recognizes the constructive nature of having the discussion and refactoring it, and that the refactorer is acting in good faith, then you're in good stead. I recognize that not everyone has such an attitude, but those people cannot participate in a deliberative forum. -- SunirShah

Formality is important in some cases, when there are bound responsibilities. The situation isn't necessarily voting, but contractual (through signatures). In other cases, it is begging the question to say that voting is a solution for formality, since the initial choice of formality means voting, and is often unnecessary for the same reasons. (And no, you did not offend me by discussing this idea with me!) -- SunirShah

Within our decision systems there seem to be problems. We try to make good decisions, but we rarely care to check them afterwards or undo them if we find them wrong. To vote against a decision might pay in an ideal decision system if the decision proves wrong afterwards and the vote right. Linus Torvalds writes in his "linux kernel management style" a rule like "don't make decisions that can't be undone". In our political systems there is no culture to look at decisions from a "learn from trial and error" way. Decisions are hyped to be right. To strive for good decisions only makes sense if you care to know the difference and one is able to admit when one was wrong. -- HelmutLeitner

It will be instructive to incorporate some examples of the problems that we have Observed, since this will allow us to consider if our proposed system may be a solution.

Generally, there is also a need to balance "long-term" and "short-term" considerations. This affects the decisions of elected 'representatives', whose concerns are generally limited to that of the term for which they are in power.

Other, significant failings of our political decision making systems is that they seldom include 'sunset' rules. Bad decisions that are implemented should at least be timed to be reviewed or even to expire, instead of just accumulating to the point that no one can even be aware of all of the governing law.

Personally, I strongly believe that the biggest failings originate in the use of "Secrecy" since this seems to inevitably allow vested interests to be hidden within obscuring statements that are politically acceptable. Lately, the mantra of "transparency" is heard as a lament against self-serving decisions that are made 'in camera', especially since it is accepted that the perception of Fairness within both Government and Corporate governance requires disclosure of material information in a timely manner.

-- HansWobbe

[1] 'equivocated' (added here rather than breaking into the flow of the existing text).

Sunir: I have "equivocated elections and voting" since I am not aware of any significant Democracy that does not base its Elections on Voting, at least at some level. I certainly agree with you that an Electoral system and a Voting system are very different things, that the casual participant fails to adequately distinguish. This is particularly evident in the United States where a very small percentage of the population has any understanding whatsoever of the role of their Electoral College. To answer your specific question about what we are after, I would say we are striving to design a Voting system, not an Electoral system.

As for there being a lot about Contracts and Authorization, I think we would be negligent if we did not recognize that there will have to be provisions for various ways of resolving the differences of opinion that are inevitable in real world decision making. When two or more divergent options exist, a common way they are resolved in the modern, civilized world, is by rule of Law as opposed to the use of force. Laws, as you know, are interpreted by Courts and the Judges that preside there render their judgements based on the presented evidence. In both the specialized practices of Constitutional law and Corporate law, the greatest weight is given to the documented Contracts that define the obligations of the respective Parties. I am certain that any Voting System we design, like virtually all others, will have to withstand the inevitable challenges that will arise, especially including Proof of Eligibility, Authority, and the system's fairness and integrity. In short, I know Contracts are an inescapable part of making a decision that affects more than a very small number of peple working in unanimous harmony. This is particularly true (as I said elsewhere) when the decisions affect the ownership and control of assets (i.e. money).

-- HansWobbe

[2] Non voting democracies? [DemocracyDefinition]

If anyone is aware of any Democracies that do not use Voting, references would be greatly appreciated.


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